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The Lost Art of Accountability

Most people in companies still view accountability as something that only comes into play when performance is poor, problems arise or results are not achieved. “Who’s accountable for this success?” is a question that is rare. They view ‘accountable’ as ‘responsible to someone or for some action; answerable’. Organizations, teams and individuals that handle accountability based on this end up damaging themselves as it’s often the start of ‘the blame-game’.

Accountability is about much more. It is the true belief, choice and preference to rise above one’s, possibly adverse, circumstances and demonstrate the necessary ownership and drive to achieve the desired results. This viewpoint requires you to continuously look for elements that can be put in place in order to rise above these circumstances and in doing so achieve different or better results. This belief subsequently forces you to take ownership regardless of external influencers and to keep the (personal) commitments you make.

A key step in creating a solid culture geared towards accountability is the definition of clear goals, objectives and desired results in an organization on all levels. Everyone in an organization must understand what they are working for and know how their contribution pushes the overall company forward. The management on all levels carries the responsibility to generate and maintain joint accountability for the overall result, goals and objectives.

In an environment of such joint and shared accountability, it is nearly impossible for anyone to think, let alone say, that he or she has done his job if the team or the organization has not achieved its targeted result. I believe this is a sin we all are guilty of, without exception, but it can’t be second nature as is too often the case because it tends to shift responsibility and ownership.

Additionally, we all have a tendency to push peoples into fixed boxes via charts and stationary job descriptions. People need a certain structure (some more than others) but all too often this, typically tasks driven, construction results in people having the narrow-minded idea that if they just perform their tasks the job is done regardless of the fact whether the overall result, goals and objectives has been achieved or not. It does not mean that everyone should be doing the work of everybody else, it is clear that people have a primary role and associated tasks but that’s not enough to be successful as a company and as an individual.

Accountable people, entrepreneurs and leaders operate on the basic principle that the job is achieving the results and not just executing the tasks. Accountable people operate beyond the boundaries of the pure tasks that are part of their job as they understand there is a greater and common good to achieve. They pursue results by asking over and over again what else can be done to complete the common, shared and yes also individual goals and by pushing the company forward regardless of their level or job in the organization. In contradiction to popular belief, failure is always an option but accountable people pick up the pieces, considered the lessons learned and try again.

It is only by assuming this (sometimes lost) enlarged view on accountability you can truly control your role in a company (or any organization for that matter) and contribute substantially to the results. The actual added value of such an approach to accountability is that it enables you to, regardless of your level in the organization, influence events and outcomes even before they are supposed to happen. By aligning your daily activities to the targeted common and individual results you will quickly notice that there is a lot more to be gained from a proactive attitude rather than getting stuck in a reactive pure task-based modus operandi.

All things considered, accountability is therefore not just being responsible for your actions but showing the tenacity to use any and all resources and possibilities at your disposal in order to proactively contribute to the overall result, goals and objectives of your company or organization.


Frederik De Breuck is better known as Stonyarc (GamerTag). Next to writing and maintaining his personal blog he is the owner of and . He's also Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) since 2010 and works as Presales Director for Fujitsu Belgium.

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